At the end of the season, Scott Darling said "it's going to be a long couple months waiting" to see how his situation as a pending unrestricted free agent plays out.
He didn't have to wait nearly as long as expected.
It took exactly a week to iron out a long-term extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, who traded for the former Blackhawks goaltender's negotiating rights for a 2017 third-round pick on April 28 and signed him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract Friday.
And Darling is already looking forward to the next chapter.
"I was super excited when the trade happened," he said during a conference call with reporters Saturday. "My goal the whole time was to sign with Carolina. I'm really excited about the team that's there. I've heard nothing but great things. Once we worked out the contract part, it was a no-brainer."
The Hurricanes took a risk by acquiring the 28-year-old Lemont native, and not necessarily because they invested in a guy who's been a backup for the last three years. He has the tools to be a full-time starter, and they saw it first-hand when Darling stopped 39 of 40 shots against Carolina at the United Center in January.
"When you look at the size of Scott and at the body of work he's put in to this point, you get a sense of where you think he could be and what you think he can do," GM Ron Francis said. "I like the fact that he's big and competitive as hell. We feel he's ready for that opportunity and capable of succeeding."
The real gamble was that Darling could have easily passed on signing a deal so he could hit the market on July 1 to expand his pool of options. But he bought what Carolina was selling, and even chatted with former Chicago teammates Bryan Bickell and Joakim Nordstrom that helped reaffirm his positive beliefs about the organization.
"That kind of put my mind at ease," Darling said.
A large reason why Darling is as ready as possible to become an every day starter is because he had the opportunity to learn from two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford on a regular basis. Both netminders were instrumental in the Blackhawks' 2015 championship run, but Darling was able to share the ups and downs with Crawford throughout that journey and get a feel for how to overcome adverse situations.
"I think the last three years I learned a lot about the mental part of the game in watching Crow play every day and being lucky enough to study one of the best goalies in the world every single day and getting advice from him, teaching me how he goes about and thinks about goaltending," Darling said. "I learned a lot from him. The skills came along, too, but I think a lot of it was between the ears. I was lucky enough to learn from one of the best."
When Crawford missed three weeks in December due to an appendectomy, Darling was given the keys by starting all 10 games in 18 days. He went 6-3-1 and registered a .931 save percentage, including a shutout, during that stretch, expanding his sample size and further proving he's capable of handling the responsibilities of being a No. 1 goaltender.
More than anything, Darling is simply hungry to take on the challenge.
"I think I'm confident because I'm excited about it," Darling said. "I’m going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be. I have a good network of goalie friends and I’m going to be picking their brains and asking for help and do everything I can do to be successful.”